Whether you travel by car, motorbike, bicycle or on foot, we have a shared responsibility to our fellow travellers.
While drivers are protected by airbags, seatbelts, and the general protection of the vehicle’s body, cyclists and pedestrians are highly exposed, making them more susceptible to serious injuries and even fatality.
Tracy Gaudry, CEO of the Amy Gillett Foundation, an organisation seeking to reduce bike-related fatalities, says, “In 2014, 45 people lost their lives while riding a bike on Australian roads.”
Furthermore, according to the NSW government, 61 out of the 348 people who died on NSW roads in 2015 were pedestrians — up 20 from the previous year.
Cyclists and pedestrians hold the same rights on the road as drivers. Here are a few tips to help you share the road and ensure that non-motorists are just as safe.
Keep a Distance
Non-motorists are vulnerable and highly susceptible to injury in the absence of protection.
When discussing bike and car interactions, Tim Blumenthal, president of the advocacy group People for Bikes, says “I’ve never seen a collision where the bike rider came out less injured.”
As drivers, it is important to recognise this vulnerability by maintaining an appropriate distance between your vehicle and non-motorists on the road.
Under current law in most Australian states, it is required that vehicles remain at least one metre away from bicycles on the road, and 1.5 metres away in areas with a speed limit over 60km/h.
Under current law in most Australian states, it is required that vehicles remain at least one metre away from bicycles on the road, and 1.5 metres away in areas with a speed limit over 60km/h. The fine for breaching this is $319, plus the deduction of two demerit points.
While this law is currently only applicable to bicycle riders, it can be a great indicator for the distance you should maintain with other non-motorists, including pedestrians and motorbikes.
According to the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure in South Australia, motorcyclists account for 4 percent of vehicle registrations, but over 15 percent of fatalities, illustrating how they are more likely to be affected on the road.
Check Those Blind Spots
Whether it’s a bicycle, motorbike or person, non-motorists are comparably small to the size of your car and can at times seem invisible on the road — particularly with blind spots.
Gary Brustin, a bicycle injury attorney in the U.S., explains that drivers who have hit cyclists almost always say, “I never saw him before I hit him”.
Checking your blind spots through constant mirror and head checks is a good way to keep everyone safe when sharing the road. It’s also important to check when you have parked and ready to open the door, to avoid a pedestrian or cyclist being struck by your car door, or what’s also known as being ‘doored’.
Be Aware When Turning…
When you’re turning right, cyclists or motorbike riders coming from the opposite direction may be going straight through the intersection. As they are not in cars, there is a common misconception that they don’t go as fast and you will therefore be able to quickly sneak through that small gap; this is particularly the case with bicycles.
However, cyclists can easily get to 25-30km/h, especially on a downward incline when their speed can increase exponentially. Be mindful when turning right and begin making your turn only when there’s at least a 3-second gap, as you would with a car.
On the other hand, turning left poses a different set of risks. Cyclists and motorcyclists could be travelling on your left and want to continue straight when you are turning left. In this situation, it is much safer to slow down, head check for potential blind spots, and let them pass.
The alternate, which is speeding ahead and cutting them off when you turn, could lead to loss of control or collisions.
It’s important to remain mindful of the smallest and least-protected travellers on the road — pedestrians. When turning right or left, look out for those who may aimlessly walk across the street, pop out between parked cars or just appear out of nowhere.
Slow Down and Be Patient
In the face of frustration, try to slow down and remain patient around cyclists and other non-motorists, particularly when driving through areas that are more susceptible to non-motorist activity, such as schools, shopping centres and parks.
Being defensive rather than offensive when behind the wheel makes the road a safer and happier place for all travellers.
As a driver, you are one of the most protected travellers on the road, making you more responsible for ensuring that non-motorists, like cyclists, motorbike riders and pedestrians, feel comfortable and safe.